Sporting Kansas City-Crew Preview
Sporting Kansas City has shown it can bounce back from tough losses this season, though that resiliency may about to be put to the test.
Minus one of its top players, Sporting attempts to rebound from its worst result in 14 years in Saturday night's clash with the Columbus Crew from Mapfre Stadium.
Kansas City had a 16-game home unbeaten streak across all competitions come to an emphatic end with Wednesday's startling 5-0 defeat to San Jose. A red card to midfielder Benny Feilhaber added further misery to the club's most lopsided loss since a 7-0 drubbing by Chicago on July 4, 2001.
Sporting (11-5-7) had won three straight and gone 8-1-1 over its last 10 overall games.
"We were nonchalant," coach Peter Vermes said. "We didn't play together as a group. We weren't good in our individual defending and we were very poor with the ball and with our entry balls out of the back.
"We deserved to get beat like that because we didn't play well."
Losing Feilhaber, whose 13 assists in MLS play are tied with Columbus' Ethan Finlay for second in the league, is a blow, but Kansas City remains in good position despite the outcome. Though third in the Western Conference, it trails Los Angeles by three points and Vancouver by two with multiple games in hand on both.
"This (loss) doesn't mean anything if we win the next game. That's the mentality we have to have," goalkeeper Tim Melia said.
That mindset has served Sporting well, as it hasn't lost consecutive matches since a four-game skid in all competitions to end the 2014 campaign.
Kansas City hasn't lost to the Crew since 2012, winning five consecutive meetings and going 7-1-1 over the series' last nine games. That includes a 3-0-1 mark in Columbus, which dropped a 2-1 home decision last season with Feilhaber contributing a goal and assist.
Kei Kamara was part of several of those victories during his five-year tenure with Sporting. The dangerous striker leads MLS with 18 goals in his first season with the Crew and faces his former side for the first time since leaving Kansas City after the 2013 season.
Kamara scored and assisted on Cedrick Mabwati's game-tying goal in the 72nd minute of Wednesday's 2-2 draw with New York City FC, giving Columbus points in five of six games (3-1-2) and putting the Crew (9-8-8) one point ahead of New England for third in the East.
The Crew moved to 3-0-3 in their last six home matches and rank second in MLS with 40 goals. Twelve have come over the last five games, with Kamara accounting for five.
"He is dangerous and he is having a phenomenal year," coach Gregg Berhalter said. "We are proud of what he's been doing."